Yair Lootstein, Chair of Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism; Anna Kislanski, CEO of Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism; Rabbi Reuven Greenvald, Director of the Year-In-Israel program; Ambassador Thomas R. Nides; Rabbi Naamah Kelman ’92, Dean, The Taube Family Campus, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem. Photo Credit: Matty Stern
The new U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Thomas R. Nides, participated in the Havdalah service concluding Shabbat, where the scents, sweetness, and light of welcoming in the new week were meaningful reminders of home, with the students, faculty, staff, and Israeli Reform movement leaders at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Taube Family Campus on Saturday, December 11, less than two weeks after he arrived in Israel. The Havdalah service was part of an evening activity planned by the students’ Tzedakah Committee with the goal of collecting clothing, toiletries, and food to donate to the Jerusalem African Community Center. Students were delighted to have Ambassador Nides in their Havdalah circle, celebrating and singing.
In his address to the group, Ambassador Nides noted that he grew up in a Reform synagogue – Temple Israel in Duluth, Minnesota – visited Israel as a teenager with NFTY, the Reform Youth Movement of North America, and has been connected to Israel ever since. He stated, “I’m a Reform [Jew] but when I come here, all I care about is fundamentally my north star, which is a democratic, Jewish state… To me, that means humanity. It means taking care of the Palestinian people, it means having a vision of a two-state solution, it means supporting the security of the State of Israel, it means pushing back when I think things are wrong, because ultimately that just makes Israel a stronger democratic, Jewish state… We have to keep educating my kids, and their kids, about the importance of not only Judaism, but the importance of the State of Israel, and what it means to be a Jew, and it’s not just about the religion, it’s about humanity and decency.”
Rabbi Naamah Kelman ’92 welcomes Ambassador Thomas R. Nides.
Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Dean, and Rabbi Reuven Greenvald, Director of the Year-In-Israel program for stateside rabbinical and cantorial students, welcomed him with a tour of the campus and its academic programs, expressing the hope that “a new light will shine from Zion, and Ambassador Nides will hold up the light of democracy, equality, and freedom, the best of American values; and that while asserting his Reform roots, will reach out to all branches of Jews and all citizens in Israel, promoting peace and coexistence.” He was greeted by Anna Kislanski, CEO of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, and Yair Lootstein, Chair of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, and his connection to HUC-JIR was made through friends at Women of the Wall.
Photo Credit: Matty Stern
Anna Kislanski said, “Ambassador Nides’ Zionism and commitment to the Jewish people and the State of Israel is moving and exciting. We heard in his words that he is committed to a Jewish and democratic Israel, and it is clear that his connection to Israel in general and to the Reform movement, in particular, is deep and strong. We look forward to more opportunities to host the Ambassador in our congregations across Israel and see him as a true friend of the Reform Movement and the State of Israel.”